Bhutan - Art & Craft


Art and Craft

Bhutanese tradition defines its artistic heritage as zorig chusum ('zo'- ability to make, 'rig'- science or craft, 'chusum'- thirteen) the 13 arts and crafts.
All Bhutanese art, dance, drama and music has its roots in the Buddhist religion. Bhutanese arts and crafts have been undergoing a period of revival in recent years. According to their tradition, the arts are concerned with interpreting values rather than describing facts. Art here has two main characteristics: it is religious and anonymous. Other than its spectacular architecture, the most visible manifestation of Bhutanese art is painting. Bhutanese tradition defines three forms of painting: thangkas, wall paintings and statues. A painting may depict a deity, a legend or religious story, a meditational object or an array of auspicious symbols, but it is always religious in nature. The inner walls of temples are usually covered with paintings. Old paintings are treasured because of their historic and artistic values.

The Thirteen Arts and Crafts

Even such seemingly mundane activities are carpentry, blacksmithing and weaving are part of Bhutan's heritage of zoring chumsum, and are therefore integral elements of buddhist artistic tradition.

Drawing and Painting is called lhazo and encompasses all types of painting including thangkas (religious pictures), wall paintings and decorative paintings. Proficiency in lhazo is basic to all other arts. The geometric proportions and iconography that are essential to Buddhist atr are important parts of the school of painting. Painting in particular the portrayal of human figures, are subject to strict rules of iconography. Paints are traditionally made from earth, minerals and vegetables though in recent times chemical colours are used.

Woodworking for the construction of dzongs, monastries, houses and household goods is called shingzo (wood art).

The art of carving in wood, slate and stone is parzo. Parzo plays an important part in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition because most religious texts are printed from wooden blocks on which monks have laboriously carved a mirror image of the text.

Mud work known as jinzo, includes the making of clay statues and ritual objects such as drum stands, torma (ritual cakes) and masks. Most large statues are made by forming plaster or mud on a hollow frame and are a part of this tradition. Jinzo is understood specifically as the making of statues and ritual objects, but may also be applied to construction works using mortar, plaster and rammed earth.

Lugzo applies to two types of casting; sand casting and the lost-wax method. Lugzo craftsmen produce statues, bells and ritual instruments. The term is also used for jewellery and less exotic items such as kitchen goods.

The garzo tradition is the manufacture of iron goods such as swords, knives, chisels, axes, spades, shovels, darts, helmets, chains and plough blades.

Bamboo Work
The art of working with cane and bamboo is tshazoo. These craftsmen produce bows and arrows. bangchung (baskets) to carry food, zem and palang for storing and carrying arra and chang (local drinks), belo (bamboo hats), redi (bamboo mats), lachu and bohm for storing grains and balep (bamboo thatch).

Goldsmithing and Silversmithing
The art of working with gold and silver is aclled serzo ngulzo. These craftsmen produce objects ranging from household goods to jewellery to ritual objects. Some of these objects. Some of these objects include koma japtha (brooches and chains), thingkhap (rings), chaka timi and batha (cases for carrying doma- betel nut), dung (ritual trumphets), dorji (thumberbolt symbols) and gau (Buddhist amulets).

The entire process of weaving, from preparation of yarn, to dyeing and eventually to the final weaving is called thagzo. See the special section 'The Wrap & the Weft' in the eastern Bhutan Chapter.

The art of working with needle and thread is tshemzo. There are two categories of tshemzo. Tshendrup is embroidery and includes traditional boot making. The second is lhendrup (applique), the technique of sewing pieces of cloth onto a background to produce a picture. This process is used in thondrols such as the ones displayed at dzongs during tsechus.

The art of cutting and stacking stone walls is aclled dozo. This term is especially applied to the construction of the huge stone outer walls of dzongs, monasteries and other buildings.

Leather Work
The art of working with leather is kozo. These craftsmen produce such items as gayu, the leather bags for carrying grains, and shada, leather ropes and belts for swords.

The art of making paper is dezo. The word de refers to the daphne plant, from which the traditional paper is made.